Replies: 26 - Last Post: Nov 23, 2012 2:09 AM Last Post By: BthDth
Nov 21, 2012 2:52 AM
Hotels full!I occasionally see a post where someone is trying to book a hotel on-line and is frustrated to discover that, even months in advance, there are no vacancies in a certain city. They then ask "What's going on?".
A few months ago I was making some hotel bookings in preparation for a trip (hotel near airport for arrivals/departures) .. and was irritated by the limited vacancies, or early warnings about 'Only one room left!!'. My first thought was: this is the price of internet convenience. More and more people making early plans, taking advantage of early-booking deals, etc., that it's almost becoming a necessity to advance-book accom 3 months in advance, so more and more people make early bookings ...
But something still didn't make sense. 3 months later I showed up at the hotels and they were half empty. I decided to ask what the situation was. Three different hotels (in 2 different countries) gave the same answer, more or less as follows:
Any hotel assigns only a small number of rooms to a third-party hotel booking site, such as booking.com, meaning that when you see a warning that there's only 1 room left, that means only one from the few allotted to that booking site. In fact, one hotel receptionist smiled cynically and said, "yes, they always have that warning up as a way to get you to book immediately". Urgency and haste becomes a marketing tool.
The advice was that if it's the off-season, then hotels are rarely full and no advance bookings would be required. This fits my own experience and what I usually practice. In peak-season it's a different story, but even here they recommeded that I or anyone else check the hotel's own website for vacancies, either instead of the third-party sites or at least after the 3rd party sites claim to have no rooms left.
There may be other complications, such as promotional deals which makes one or the other option better at any moment. That aside, summary procedure is as follows:
1. There's life outside the web. Low-cost hotels/pensions in particular are either not on the web or do not register with 3rd party booking sites. The old-fashioned way of travel, esp. for the low-budget types, still works: have a list of accom options in a guidebook, and look around once you arrive.
2. Pre-book for convenience in off-season, but otherwise not necessary in general. Pre-booking is advised for peak-season and special holidays/festivals.
3. Search 3rd party booking sites for hotel ideas. Book if you wish, but it's also a good idea to double-check with the hotel's own website, especially if there appears to be no vacancies on the 3rd party site.
Nov 21, 2012 5:00 AM
1Also it's often the number of cheap rooms available, rather than the amount of rooms overall.
The same applies to advance tickets on UK trains (in fact, not just in The UK).
I travel to London quite a lot and get advance fares from The NW of England.
Quite often the case is that there are no seats left at the cheapest advance prices.
Yet I board the train and, just like the hotels, it's half empty.
The reason being, there are only a certain amount of allocated advance fares available on each train.
Sometimes, the trains which left half an hour earlier, or indeed later, are full ! !
Same, I believe, goes for hotel rooms. Two shining examples are (UK) Travelodge and Premier Inn.
Sometimes there are no £19 a night rate rooms. Then you turn up and the place is, again, nearly empty.
Your mention of looking around is good. As you maybe aware, Travelodge does have direct phone numbers.
Calling the actual hotel, sometimes brings up a price that's different to the website.
Nice post ! !
Nov 21, 2012 5:13 AM
2I monly pre book the first night on a continent. There are many many mom and pop pensións around. I rarely star anywhere with stars by the name. But I stayed at a 2 star Hostal in Madrid. On third floor only. They may have had ten rooms. Hostal Saldinero, by the lizaed disc sculture. c/Prado,16.
this is not spam. 4 nights, two beds. 246? Euro. Great Mexican food down the perpendicular street. Also Peruvian and Argentine restaurants. Indian food is off to the left.
Even with the back of Thyssen Art Heaven.
O/ur hostel was in Europe on a Shoestring and several others.
Now my yank friend isn't scared of Europe any more.
His first night, we stayed at Cat's Hostel, but dorms only.
Bed made every day, new towels, organized my stuff everyday. Had a safe which we didn't feel we needed.
Nov 21, 2012 5:16 AM
Nov 21, 2012 5:22 AM
Nov 21, 2012 5:27 AM
Nov 21, 2012 6:15 AM
6Any hotel assigns only a small number of rooms to a third-party hotel booking site, such as booking.com, meaning that when you see a warning that there's only 1 room left, that means only one from the few allotted to that booking site
Last month I wanted to book a room in a hotel in the Hague through booking.com. At that time, the lowest available room rate was €85 per night, but there were only 5 rooms left, according to Booking. I didn't book right away but when I tried to do that the next day, the cheapest available rate for the same room type was €109. This was also the lowest rate shown on the hotel's website.
To my surprise, one day later, the special rate of €85 had become available again, and no "only x room left!" warnings this time. I suspect this indicates that hotels sometimes sell an extra batch of rooms against reduced rates to 3rd party booking sites when occupancy is low, but perhaps another poster with inside knowledge of sales policies in the hotel business can confirm whether this could be the case.
Oh, in the end it turned out the hotel was not at all fully booked.
Nov 21, 2012 7:35 AM
7I made similar experiences. There exist furthermore 3rd part booking sites who tell you that a hotel is fully booked or that it cannot be booked electronically and offer you "therefore" rooms in another hotel. If you do some research, you often find out that both affirmations are wrong.
For small hotels, it's often more convenient to google for the place, find out the phone number and make a call.
Nov 21, 2012 10:06 AM
8An interesting subject!
I have used booking.com so many times that the idea has crossed my mind to write a manual about it. During the past one or two years i've used it mostly to look for (available) hotels, read their reviews and take it with a grain of salt, write down their rates, but then... if i'm on the road i most often simply show up, and if i'm at home i grab my phone.
Taking the steep commissions into account, booking sites are for many hotel owners, a necessary evil. Take into account that the minimum commission booking.com charges is a 17% and the so called 'preferred' hotels with a thumb up easily pay around 40%.
Those steep commissions are to start with one of the reasons why hotels don't put all their rooms available on a booking site.
"yes, they always have that warning up as a way to get you to book immediately" is another reason. It works when potential customers believe you are almost fully booked.
Some hotel owners will also await eventual direct bookings and use the booking site only when they have too much availability, because one thing is sure: hotels prefer direct bookings.
I have also learnt that there are no general rules. It can depend on the country, the region, the specific location, the season, how much competition they have, what the competition is doing, how well they are ranked in the guidebooks, Tripadvisor etc, whether it is a small or a big hotel, independently owned or a chain, how long they are on the booking site, ... So many factors will have an influence on how much availability they want to show on the booking sites.
Some of my most recent examples.
Together with some friends we have decided to escape to the Belgian Ardennes for NY (a popular destination that time of the year -peak season), but that was last week only so rather late and we needed 4 rooms. The hotel that we have finally booked only had 2 rooms left on booking.com. I knew this hotel and it seemed perfect for our needs so i phoned them, and yes they had 4 rooms left (out of a total of 8 rooms, a small hotel)! The owner said 'We never put more than 2 hotels on booking.com'. For peak period she was also afraid of late cancellations. If such a hotel gets a group booking which then cancels 2 days before arrival, it's a disaster for them.
The previous example was a hotel in Vianden, Luxembourg earlier this month. I found rates and availability on booking.com, but the hotel gave a better rate for the same room on their own website! This was not the first time i've had such a case.
Early October we were travelling on a round-trip in southern Spain and after searching on booking.com i had only noted a few places and their according rates. We showed up in such a casa rural, i told the lady that according to b.c she had a room for €52 and she said 'you can have it for €40'.
I can go on and on with examples.
It is not that i won't use b.c for bookings anymore, but nowadays i don't systematically book through the booking site. I use the site mainly for searching and then i eather phone/mail or, when i am on the road, i note their rates and simply show up.
I've had nice surprises this way, especially when you mention that you want to avoid the heavy commission for the hotel. I've had upgrades, a breakfast offered, or a drink offered. Not always, let that be clear ;-)
After a pleasant stay, countless hotel owners have told me 'if you ever wish to come back, please book directly'.
If you find a better rate on b.c compared to the official hotel rate, you will nearly always get the same rate when booking directly or just showing up, but you have to be informed.
Exceptions are some bigger hotels and/or chains. The manager determines the rates on the booking sites, and the clerk behind the desk often has no authority to change the official rate. Such hotels also have a totally different policy. They have a lot of staff and they want the best occupancy possible, even at online bargain rates. I rarely stay in such hotels but when i do, i will use the booking site.
1. I totally agree though it also depends on the destination. In countries like Spain and Portugal, far more small hotels/pensions and rural accommodations/b&b's are on booking.com compared to say Greece (most domatia aren't online) and even France.
2. I mostly travel in off- or shoulder season and i usually book for my first night only, yes for convenience. This can be done through a booking site or not
3. I fully agree. I would add: grab that phone or send a mail (not all hotels have a direct booking function on their website) and tell the owners that you are aware that they prefer direct bookings. They appreciate it.
One last thing. I am afraid that some type of hotels will start adding the commission of the booking sites to their rates (i suspect that some already do so). Booking sites may end up making accommodation more expensive...
Nov 22, 2012 1:01 AM
9Agree with all of the above...
It does sometimes work the other way though.
A couple of years ago I booked a hotel in KL,Malaysia through booking.com as they had very decent prices (for a highly rated Tripadvisor place).
I liked the hotel and wanted to reserve a room for when I came back from a side trip to Borneo.
I asked at reception and they quoted me a price that was double what I had paid online,When i mentioned this,they told me if I wanted the 'discount' price I had to book it online,not in person ;-)
Nov 22, 2012 1:07 AM
10Same thing happened to me in Lisbon. Not booking.com but another hotel booking site I found online. Found a cheap place to stay and when I booked at the place for the return to Lisbon, I was charged more for the same room.
Nov 22, 2012 1:31 AM
11Interesting story! I do the same as most of you, I book for the first night and see what comes next. Booking the first night has also the advantage that I can arrive late. This is important since I often drive from Spain to the Netherlands and don't want to lose time looking for a hotel. To find a hotel I have used booking.com, but in France I often use the website if logis-de-france. Their hotels are often somewhat smaller and situated in smaller villages or even in the country-side than the hotels on booking.com. Up to now I feel that I had always pleasant hotels that way. What is important for me is that the hotel has a restaurant. If I have driven for 10 or more hours going out for supper does not appeal to me. A restaurant in the hotel is therefore rather important.
Another type of hotel I use on these trips from Spain to the Netherlnads and back is Ibis. They also have retaurants in the hotel and usually I know quite well around 4 a'clock where I'll be around 7 and then call ahead. In almost every case the Ibis selected had a room available.
Nov 22, 2012 1:33 AM
Nov 22, 2012 1:57 AM
13....I made the same experience as bjd with hotels of the accor chain. Once, the guy at the reception desk even told me: "don't book here, go to our clients computer just around the corner and book there; it will be much cheaper".
2 weeks ago, a friend living at Salvador da Bahia booked a room for me directly with the Catussaba hotel; through booking com, it would have been about 20 per cent cheaper.
Another story are the quota rooms of travel agencies. Some agencies offer them at almost any last minute price. Check http://hotel.condor.com/booking/condor/erde/index.php?KID=688001 (German version only) or http://www.bucher-reisen.de/bu2/hotel.jsp
Nov 22, 2012 2:32 AM
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